It was once said that "the sun never sets on the British empire." To this day, the saying holds true. While mother England is no longer the superpower that it once was, the imperial legacy lives on. The legacy of empire lives on in a thousand subtle, and not so subtle ways. It lives in the colonies that once comprised the empire. It lives in the dynamics of world power, as now embodied by the United States of America. It lives within our societal stereotypes, in our language, in our imagery, and in our fantasies. Perhaps most importantly, it lives in our literature, contemporaneously captured for all time like a fly in amber.
The influence of our past upon the present cannot be overstated. We are the direct descendants, only a few generations removed, of colonial citizens. Our great, great, grandfather could easily have been a British "adventurer", a provincial subject, or English national abroad on safari. Perhaps in part because this history is so recent, we can see remnants of the ideologies of Empire in our society today. To this day, our culture has an image of the magical African safari, where an archetypal Englishman with a blunderbuss and military garb hunts down a savage tiger on sunny African plains. Our culture has an image of the Indian court, alive and vibrant with color, but tinged with the trappings of the English court. The ambiance of an English study, as embodied by Sherlock Holmes and his flat on Baker Street with it's nick-nacks and earthtones is as familiar to us as our own contemporary surroundings.
When I began to look at the influences of Empire, I realized that I took all of these things for granted. I began to question the things that I have been so familiar with, and wonder about how they came to be. For me, the idea of England as a superpower was beyond my understanding. It has never been this way in my lifetime. I felt as if there was a huge hole in my understanding, and that understanding Empire was a way to fill in the gaps in my historical understanding. Through the readings of MSU's ENG460 class, I began to look critically at not only the literature, but at the authors and history surrounding them.